Recognition and allyship were two key points discussed last week during a panel discussion about anti-racism.
Hosted by the Delaware County Democratic Party, the panel was moderated by Ohio Democratic Party Vice Chair Andre Washington, a Delaware city precinct representative. Panelists included Ruchelle Pride, board president of the Second Ward Community Initiative and supervisor of the Delaware County Assessment Center with the Delaware County Juvenile Court; Tamika Vinson-Reid, co-chair of the Delaware African American Heritage Council; and Rev. Michael Curtis, the pastor of Second Baptist Church in Delaware.
To start the discussion, Washington asked the panelists to discuss and define racism and its impact.
“(Racism is) the ability of one group having the power to carry out systemic discrimination, whether it be institutional policies or practices of a society,” Vinson-Reid said. “It shapes our cultural beliefs and values in support of those racist policies or practices. It structures opportunity in a way that it assigns merit based upon social interpretation of how one looks, and it disadvantages some individuals and community while unfairly advantaging some communities and individuals. It fails to see all humans as equal.”
Vinson-Reid added racism comes in many sizes and can be experienced at the internal level, interpersonal level, institutional level, and structural level.
Pride said one of the first steps to combating racism is understanding one’s own implicit biases and recognizing where you need to grow.
“We first have to show up and be a reflection to ourselves as to what biases we have because these types of conversations are great to have, but if we can’t first recognize where we stand in relation to our own biases, our own thoughts beliefs and attitudes that promote the way we think believe and feel about other people in general, we’re not going to go anywhere fast,” Pride said. “We have to be able to look at ourselves honestly and truthfully, and ask, ‘What implicit biases do I have?’”
Curtis said racism can’t be dealt with by not acknowledging it, adding people have to actually discuss race.
“When we talk about anti-racism, we have a lot of stuff that’s standing in front of us now that we’ve got to deal with, but how do we deal with it,” Curtis said. “Anti-racism is ‘I don’t see color, I see opportunity.’”
Pride said anti-racism is a zero tolerance rejection of “this idea that there’s a supremacy of one race over another,” and “anti-racism promotes equality.”
She added racism has skewed the way concepts like diversity are discussed.
“I think that’s the problem, we look at diversity as something to be afraid of … instead of looking at diversity as opportunity,” Pride said. “Diversity is beauty, diversity is something that is going to create opportunities, resources, relationships.”
Pride added the end of racism in society would be “better for everybody,” not just Black, Indigenous and people of color (bipoc).
“We are all better together versus being apart,” Pride said.
Vinson-Reid said anti-racism is acknowledging that racist structures and beliefs are pervasive and they exist, and being willing to do the work to tear down those beliefs and those structures.
“What are you willing to risk? Are you willing to take up the struggle as your own?” Vinson-Reid said. “An ally is anyone in the majority group who is willing to work towards the end of the oppression of the marginalized or oppressed group … Are you willing to use your privilege to aid someone else? Ally is a verb, do the work. Nothing can get done without allies, whether they be likely or unlikely.”
Pride said that to her, the key to allyship lies in a quote from Malcolm X.
“I’m for truth no matter who tells it. I’m for justice no matter who it’s for or against,” Pride said, quoting Malcolm X before adding, “That to me is the epitome of allyship and being willing to stand in a place and stand flatfooted, and be clear about who you’re with, what you’re for and why. It goes back to understanding how important it is to stand in unison.”
Vinson-Reid said exposing yourself to curiosity and truth, and being able to do the internal work is a good place to start, and she recommended several books viewers could read, including “The Racial Healing Handbook” by Anneliese A. Singh and “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.
Pride recommended “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, and “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho as great books to start with, as well as the podcast “Race Haven” by Scott Speed and “Let’s Talk About Race” by Kamran Rosen.
“I’m all about inclusivity and trying to get everybody to stand up and be part of the conversation and do what we need to do,” Pride said. “I consider silence as being violence, so what you don’t say is as much as what you do say. We have resources available for you to come and ask those questions. We’re here to help you. We’re not asking you to come in and save us, we’re asking for you to stand with us in how we move forward.”
Curtis said he’s been preaching hope lately, and he is hopeful for the future.
“Change can come if we make the steps to do the things we need to do,” he said. “We’ll get better once we learn there’s something better for us once we take the time to get out there and do it.”
The entire discussion can be viewed on the Delaware County Democratic Party Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.